Some Howard County arts groups got all they requested from the Maryland Arts Council this year, which gave $170,000 in matching grants to county institutions. But in light of recent debates over the funding of federal arts programs, artists say they are wary about how much they will get in the future.
"It is unusual to have stable funding, especially in the atmosphere we're working in, where there are pressures on public funding for the arts, like with the National Endowment for the Arts," said Theresa Colvin, deputy director of the Howard County Arts Council. "What next year brings for us, as far as funding, we're really not sure and can't predict."
Fourteen Howard County arts organizations, including the Rep Stage Company and the Howard County Center for the Arts, received state council grants for programs that include concerts, art exhibits and watercolor lessons.
That figure could drop significantly within two years, however, if Congress approves cuts in the $134 million budget of the National Endowment for the Arts, council director Jim Backas said.
"If the NEA were to receive cuts in their budget, most likely the funds for grants would be reduced and we would have to take away from grants as well," Mr. Backas said.
About $670,000 of the council's $8.4 million budget come from the NEA. The grants from the council are matching grants. The groups can apply for grants that are up to 10 percent of their most recent operating budgets or ticket sales.
If funding is cut, local arts groups probably would offer fewer outreach programs and art lessons for children, Mr. Backas said.
"When the National Endowment for the Arts comes under attack, that causes a trickle-down effect on everyone, even down to the counties," said Kasi Campbell, general manager of Howard Community College's Rep Stage Company, which got a grant of about $27,000.
"Once you say it's all right to cut the arts, they no longer carry value with people. They become an easy target for budget-cutting."
Over the past two years, the funding for most local arts groups has increased slightly, mainly because of increases in ticket sales, organizers said.
"The artistic quality has jumped incredibly . . . with a little bit more money to lure in groups like professional union actors who produce a higher quality show, which increases our ticket sales," Ms. Campbell said.
The Rep Stage Company, for example, will use its grant for theater productions that are to include such shows as "The Importance of Being Earnest," a Victorian comedy; "Oleanna," a contemporary drama about gender warfare and political correctness; and "From the Mississippi Delta," an African play.
The Howard County Arts Council received more than $66,000 from the state group. About $14,000 will be used for the county's Center for the Arts programs, which include visual arts and music classes and a new exhibit featuring black artists of the post-modern era. The remaining money will pay for community development programs, such as trips to New York City and gallery talks.
In fiscal 1995, which ended yesterday, the Howard County government gave $289,820 for arts programs, mostly in the county, with $95,256 going to help 10 Baltimore arts and cultural organizations that serve the region, Ms. Colvin said.
The projected amount from the county for fiscal 1996 is $307,421, with about $100,000 for Baltimore arts programs.
ARTS COUNCIL GRANTS
The Maryland State Arts Council gave Howard County organizations a total of $172,214 in matching grants for fiscal 1996. Among them were:
* Columbia Festival Inc., $31,812.
* Howard Community College/Educational Foundation for the Rep Stage Company, $27,325.
* Howard County Center for the Arts, $14,000.
* Kinetics Dance Theatre, $10,848.
* Candlelight Concert Society Inc., $9,720.
* Columbia Pro Cantare, $6,440.
* Howard County Poetry and Literature Society, $5,951.
* Columbia School of Theatrical Arts Inc., $5,000.
* Eva Anderson Dancers Ltd., $2,500.
* Howard County Center of African American Culture Inc., $1,000.
* The Columbia Orchestra, $500.
* Ellicott City Ballet Guild, $500.
*Maryland Museum of African Art, $2,500
*Mid-Atlantic Movement Theatre Festival, $1,486